Dead, or Alive (again)


It is with a heavy heart that I sit at my laptop to announce the death of Mabel Moo, whom I interviewed just last month. Optimistic to the end, she went to the slaughterhouse believing she was testing a new milking facility. It was no doubt better that way. RIP, Mabel, we shall miss you.

Izzy’s May I: The Write this week is about the death of fictional characters. As she gives a good list herself, I shall only add a couple here (apart from poor Mabel). Perhaps the death which caused the greatest trauma was that of Sherlock Holmes, in the 1893 issue of The Strand Magazine. ‘It is with a heavy heart that I take up my pen,’ writes Watson at the start of The Final Problem, before going on to reveal that Holmes had fallen to his death at the Reichenbach Falls, pushed by his old enemy Moriarty. Having lost its fictional mainstay, The Strand Magazine promptly lost 20,000 devastated subscribers. Unlike his readers, Conan Doyle was relieved to be rid of his creation: “I have had such an overdose of him that I feel towards him as I do towards pâté de foie gras, of which I once ate too much, so that the name of it gives me a sickly feeling to this day.” Eventually he relented though, revealing ten years later, in one of the most famous examples of retcon (retroactive continuity, or altering an established fact) that Holmes hadn’t died after all.

Very different is Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, which I’ve just finished. If you haven’t read it, do (no excuses, I’m afraid, that’s an order). It’s no spoiler to tell you the heroine Ursula dies. In fact I lost count of the number of times she dies, but she springs back to life again and again. You might think it’s a tiresome device, but in Atkinson’s masterful prose it becomes a delight.

So there you have one of the joys of fiction. Though death in novels can often be harrowing and atrocious, it also sometimes loses its sting. Speaking of which, it appears the stun gun at the slaughterhouse didn’t work – Mabel is back in her field!

Thursday Interview: Mabel Moo


– Thanks for receiving me, Mabel. It’s, um, a lovely field you live in, but there doesn’t seem a lot to do. Don’t you ever get bored?

– Not really. When I was younger, I used to look over the fence and think the grass was greener, but it isn’t really. It was just an optical illusion.

– But what do you get up to all day? Apart from eat, that is.

– Not much, I’ll admit. But then, eating’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? My stomach’s got four compartments and one of them’s always hungry, so apart from the occasional nap, basically I’m munching all day.

– And it’s always grass? Aren’t you sometimes desperate for something different?

– Like barbecue spare ribs? Ah, no, I’m a strict vegan. Everyone in our field is. And we’re quite happy with grass, you know. I’ve seen what the pigs get and I wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole.

– Which brings me to the delicate topic of, um, meat.

– What about it?

– Well, you are aware, I suppose, that… OK, let’s put it this way – what are your plans for the future?

– More of the same. Some cows are always complaining, or making resolutions, you know, to travel or go into politics, but I just don’t get it. There’s one, I heard, who’s set up a space travel company. Loads of cows are training to jump over the moon. I can’t see the appeal myself. Maybe I’ll learn French one day, though. Last year we had a herd of Charolais with us on an Erasmus exchange, and communication was awkward, to say the least. They thought we were being snooty, you know, making no effort to understand them. But when you’ve been used to ‘Moo’ all your life, it isn’t easy when someone comes along and says ‘Meuh!’

– So no clouds on the horizon, then? That must be nice.

– It is. We’ve got a few killjoys that say it won’t last. There’s a rumour going round about some dreadful place where they’ll take us one day and electrocute us. Apparently someone’s even seen it. But it’s best to ignore that sort of negativity, otherwise you’d go crazy thinking about it all the time. I’m happy as I am. There’s nothing better, you know, than lying down on a mellow summer evening with a group of friends and chewing the cud together. I could do it till the cows come home.